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Council Cuts Threaten Future of Golf Courses

By: | Wed 07 Feb 2024

Golf survived a global pandemic. However, the cost of living crisis is taking its toll in a way that COVID never did.

You will no doubt be aware that many councils across the UK face serious budget shortfalls and are looking to make cuts. You also probably will not be surprised to learn that several municipal golf courses are under threat as a result. For those who cannot afford to join private members’ clubs, council-run courses provide a vital alternative and when they close they are gone for ever.

Many are developed for much-needed housing, while others are simply left for nature to do its thing.

It has emerged that both the 18-hole and nine-hole courses at Caird Park in Dundee are facing the axe, having been recommended for closure by the board of Leisure and Culture Dundee.

The decision has still to be ratified by the city council but, with the local authority trying to find more than £800,000 in savings, it is understood that closing Caird Park could contribute almost half of that shortfall. The council has to save a total of £24m.

Caird Park is one of a number of Dundee landmarks earmarked for closure.

Council leader John Alexander told The Dundee Courier: “The fact that council officers are providing all of the political parties on Dundee City Council with such depressing options shows the scale of the challenge facing the council, with £24m needing to be found. No political party will find this budget easy or without pain. That is, sadly, the nature of austerity.

“Dundonians will, rightly, be concerned by the things on this list but it’s important to say that they will not all come to pass.”

Caird Park’s 18-hole course was the busiest public course in Europe in the mid-1980s. Opened in 1923, it is located in heart of the city. Walter Lyle, the uncle of two-time major champion Sandy Lyle, was the club’s first professional when he was appointed in the early 1950s.

This is the latest blow for golfers in the Dundee area after the council closed Camperdown in 2020.

The Caird Park news follows hot on the heels of another probable closure. 

I was particularly disappointed by a story that caught my eye via Golf Business, who reported that Hollandbush Golf Club, which was built tin the 1950s, could be closed before the end of the month. We covered that story ourselves last week. It was originally earmarked for closure during the 2020 pandemic lockdown but was saved thanks to the golf boom that exploded when lockdown ended. It seemed that the future of the course was assured.

As part of a programme of spending cuts by South Lanarkshire Council, the course looks to be doomed. It is located near the town of Hamilton and is a course I am familiar with. I played it several times in my youth and loved every minute.

The club has now issued a statement on its Facebook page, stating: “Community we need your help! SLC have earmarked Hollandbush course for closure! There is to be a meeting on 21st February to discuss.

“We need you all to bombard your councillors to stop this resource going to waste.

“The course has never looked better, never been busier and the clubhouse is thriving! You all know we support every charity, every group in any way we can. Some have worked tirelessly for 20 years and bringing it to what it is today.”

Local Scottish Conservative councillor Ross Lambie has said he will be supporting the club by not voting for the cuts. He said:  “I for one will not be voting in favour of any cuts which include the closure of Hollandbush Golf Club. I learned to play here as a junior, and it’s amazing how much the course has matured over the years.

“It provides massive amounts of benefit to the surrounding area.”

In a separate post, the club urged people to keep the fight going saying: “They picked the wrong club and community to mess with.”

Hollandbush Golf Club is one of six operated by the council and it is feared the closure may be down to low maintenance throughout the pandemic.

This is a golf club that deserves to survive. It has a decent website, a lovely clubhouse and membership in 2023 cost an incredible £115. 

Raglan Parc Golf

On a happier note, a Welsh golf club that permanently closed down before the pandemic is to reopen. Raglan Parc Golf Club shut its doors in 2018 after a dispute over the lease between the then club directors and landowners.

London-based financier Deri Llewellyn-Davies then took over the venue with the aim of developing it with eco lodges, a restaurant and other facilities. This was delayed by COVID and the venue then closed completely towards the end of last year following the collapse of a major investor.

However, new owners have now promised to reopen it as a “a high quality 18-hole course” including a public restaurant.

A post on a new Facebook page called ‘Raglan Golf Club’ announced: “We are so pleased and proud to announce that the sale of Raglan Golf Club has officially completed. We will be looking to start works immediately to reinstate the course back to 18 holes.

“Much of this will be weather dependent, so at present we are unable to confirm an opening date. We will post updates as and when we have them, so watch this space!

“We’re super excited to welcome back old members, and introduce the course to new members too.”

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